Be amazed at how much of our everyday language comes from the original words of William Shakespeare! The following phrases or expressions were first uttered by characters in one of Shakespeare's many plays. How many have you used?


  • Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him --
  • Ay, there's the rub
  • Brevity is the soul of wit
  • Conscience does make cowards of us all
  • Good night, ladies
  • Dog will have its day
  • Frailty, thy name is woman
  • Get thee to a nunnery
  • Hoist with his own petard
  • In my heart of hearts
  • It smells to heaven
  • More in sorrow than in anger
  • In my mind's eye
  • Murder most foul
  • The lady doth protest too much, methinks
  • Though this be madness, yet there is method in't
  • Sweets to the sweet
  • To be, or not to be: that is the question
  • To thine own self be true
  • The play's the thing
  • Neither a borrower nor a lender be
  • Not a mouse stirring
  • Something is rotten in the state of Denmark
  • What a piece of work is a man
Romeo and Juliet

  • A fool's paradise
  • Parting is such sweet sorrow
  • Star-crossed lovers
  • What's in a name?

  • Come what may
  • Crack of doom
  • Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble
  • Fatal vision
  • Full of sound and fury
  • Knock, knock! Who's there?
  • Milk of human kindness
  • One fell swoop
  • Out, damned spot!
  • Sorry sight
  • The be-all and the end-all
  • What's done is done
Richard III

  • A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!
  • A tower of strength
  • Now is the winter of our discontent
  • Short shrift
  • Spotless reputation
The Taming of the Shrew

  • An eye-sore
  • Budge an inch
  • Kill ... with kindness
  • More fool you
Julius Caesar

  • Beware the Ides of March
  • Cowards die many times before their deaths
  • Dish fit for the gods
  • Et tu, Brute!
  • Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears
  • It was Greek to me
  • Lean and hungry look
  • Let slip the dogs of war
  • Stood on ceremonies
  • There is a tide in the affairs of men
  • This was the noblest Roman of them all
  • Unkindest cut of all
Henry IV

  • Give the devil his due
  • The better part of valour is discretion
  • The game is afoot
Henry IV, part 2

  • Eaten me out of house and home
  • Stony-hearted villains
  • Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown
Henry VI, part 2

  • Breathe one's last
  • Dead as a doornail
  • Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep
  • The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers
King Lear

  • Come full circle
  • Every inch a king
  • More sinned against than sinning
  • Sharper than a serpent's tooth
  • As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods
The Tempest

  • Into thin air
  • O, Brave new world
  • Strange bedfellows
  • We are such stuff as dreams are made on

  • A foregone conclusion
  • Green-eyed monster
  • One that loved not wisely, but too well
  • Pomp and Circumstance
  • 'Tis neither here nor there
  • Wear my heart on my sleeve
As You Like It

  • All the world's a stage
  • Bag and baggage
  • Blow, blow, thou winter wind
  • The working day world
  • We have seen better days
  • Too much of a good thing
The Merry Wives of Windsor

  • Short and the long of It
  • What the dickens
  • Throw cold water on it
  • The world's mine oyster
The Merchant of Venice

  • Bated breath
  • Hold a candle to
  • It's a wise father that knows his own child
  • Love is blind
  • My own flesh and blood
  • The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose
  • The quality of mercy is not strained
The Winter's Tale

  • As white as driven snow
King John

  • Cold comfort
  • Elbow room
Troilus and Cressida

  • Good riddance
A Midsummer Night's Dream

  • Lord, what fools these mortals be!
  • The course of true love never did run smooth

  • Death by inches
The Merry Wives of Windsor

  • Laughing-stock
Love's Labour's Lost

  • Play fast and loose
  • The naked truth
The Comedy of Errors

  • Something in the wind
The Two Gentlemen of Verona

  • To make a virtue of necessity

Language Arts | Worsley School

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